St. Sava Church (Jackson, California)

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St. Sava Church in Jackson, California is a parish of the Serbian Orthodox Church and holds the distinction of being the first Serbian Orthodox Church to be established in the United States or the Western Hemisphere. Originally part of the Russian Mission to North America, they would send a priest by the name of Sebastian Dabovich, who was determined to see the Orthodox faith established in the "New World" and was instrumental to St. Sava's establishment. The church was finished in 1894. St. Sava has operated continuously since its founding, and, since 1962 has operated a "Mission Foundation" to expand St. Sava's ministry through projects such as the purchase and establishment of a campground, care of the elderly, and support to historic churches.

St. Sava Church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.


The beginnings of St. Sava Church can be traced back to Serbian migration to California after the state's 1849 gold rush. Records show that by 1860, a number of Serbian families were living in Amador county, California, where the town of Jackson is located. Between 1860 and 1900, most were employed in mining. Jackson became a center of Serbian culture since nearly one-third of the town's residents were of Serbian descent. For much of this time, the only Orthodox Church anywhere near was the Holy Trinity Chapel in Fort Ross, California, which had been an old Russian outpost. However, Fort Ross was still over 150 miles away and never had a priest permanently assigned there. Orthodox parishes also came to be in San Francisco, but, in an era before the automobile, the distance still remained well over 100 miles for those living in Jackson. In 1886, an organization dedicated to St. Sava was established, and in 1893, a young American-born priest named Fr. Sebastian Dabovich was sent from San Francisco to help establish the parish of St. Sava.

At this time, there was no Serbian Orthodox Church in the United States, and so St. Sava in Jackson was officially a parish of the Russian Mission.

St. Sava has become a landmark in the entire community; this church is depicted in one of the murals in Jackson's city hall and is one of its major points of interest.

In 1922, disaster struck the community at the Argonaut Mine, where 47 miners lost their lives. Eleven of these were Serbian, and are buried in the St. Sava Cemetery.

In the 1960's, a Mission Foundation was formed to assist in purchasing land to build a summer camp. This goal was achieved, and still runs successfully every year, but the Foundation continues to run to provide assistance to St. Sava and the greater St. Sava community.


St. Sava itself is a fairly small church, originally designed to accomodate 50-60 people (though a vestibule was added to the narthex at some point). The style is traditionally Serbian. Although much of the church remains essentially the same, the church originally had an "onion-dome" cupola, but this was taken down in 1930, and replaced with the straight tower seen today. Also, as is tradition in many Orthodox churches, it was built with no pews, though pews were installed in 1969. A residence was built along with the church, but was torn down in the 1950s.